RNIB Group has made nearly 500 redundant in past two years as it rebalances the books

The charity's accounts for the year to 31 March show it incurred redundancy and termination costs of £0.9m on 269 staff in the past year, with a similar figure for 210 staff in 2017/18

RNIB headquarters
RNIB headquarters

The sight-loss charity the RNIB Group has made almost 500 staff redundant over the past two years as it continues its recovery from a difficult financial period, the latest accounts show.

The charity’s accounts for the 12 months ending on 31 March show the group incurred redundancy and termination costs of £0.9m on 269 staff over the course of the year.

This compares with redundancy and termination costs of £0.9m on 210 staff the previous year.

"These costs have been incurred as part of a programme of work to implement our strategy and ensure we have the right people with the right skills to effectively meet the needs of our customers," says the report, which was published last week.

The job losses helped to reduce costs after the group, which now employs about 1,800 staff, suffered four consecutive loss-making years up to 2017.

The closure of the RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning, near Coventry, in November last year was responsible for 185 of the jobs lost.

The group includes the sight-loss charity the RNIB and subsidiary operational and trading entities, such as the RNIB Specialist Learning Trust and RNIB Enterprises.

The RNIB and its subsidiary RNIB Charity are subject to an ongoing Charity Commission statutory class inquiry into the safeguarding of vulnerable beneficiaries at the centre, the announcement of which led to the resignation of Sally Harvey, the chief executive, in April last year.

Group income fell by £12.4m from £118.7m to £106.3m last year.

A spokeswoman for the group said this was due to reduced statutory grants and contracts, as well as the closure of the centre and the transfer of the three Vision Hotels it ran for blind and partially sighted people.

But the group's fall in expenditure from £112.4m to £102.4m meant it recorded a surplus of £3.8m, down on its £6.3m surplus in 2018.

Legacies accounted for 70 per cent of voluntary income, which fell from £63.8m to £59.4m.

The report's fundraising review says the group's high dependence on legacies "exposes our financial wellbeing to economic factors beyond our direct control".

Audit fees rose from £264,000 to £433,000 and governance costs increased from £638,000 to £990,000.

The spokeswoman said the increase in audit fees "reflects a continued focus on improving our financial controls as part of our financial transformation plan".

The increase in governance costs, she added "reflects the work and improvements made on safeguarding and compliance".

Matt Stringer became chief executive of the RNIB in May on a basic salary of £150,000 plus London weighting and pension contributions.

Eleanor Southwood, a Labour councillor in the London borough of Brent who became chair in November 2017, received a salary of £26,000.

In her chair's report, Southwood says the closure of the RNIB Pears Centre "wasn’t an easy decision and I am profoundly sorry that RNIB let down the young people in our care and their families".

She adds: "It is now clear that we are not the right organisation to be running this highly complex service for children with such specialist needs."

Stringer's report says: "The organisation has clearly been through a significant transformation over recent years and now has an excellent foundation in place, in terms of the new strategy and brand, to take us forward."

The RNIB's sight-loss advice service reached 55,123 people in 2018/19. The charity also secured nine new eye clinic liaison officers across the UK, which supported 36,649 patients.

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